THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – AUGUST 15

Panama Covid-19 update – first Sunday without an all-day lockdown in Chitre in the Central Provinces is marked on the TV news. I was there last week and, apart from the Sunday lockdowns, everything seemed to be normal, with shops and the streets busy. As elsewhere in the country, everyone everywhere was masked up, and temperature and other biosecurity checks were in place – even when visiting outdoor places in the surrounding countryside… Odd how a country with a population liable to protest loudly (we were held up in a protest on the Inter-American Highway) is far more compliant over facemasks and other sensible controls – unlike in more ostensibly “advanced” countries like the US and UK. Maybe the population here has a more realistic understanding of the risks of infectious diseases, given the country’s battles with malaria, yellow fever, dengue etc.

Meanwhile, with the Ministry of Health saying Panama has reached something of a plateau, at least with the situation not getting worse, today saw a continuation of the recent trends – with totals of active cases and hospitalisations falling, although numbers in ICU continue to rise slowly (up 3 today to 120, with another 338 in other wards). 563 new cases reported today, and 2 fatalities, with there now being 10,555 active cases.

15 AUGUST 2021

IRAN’S ‘GHOST ARMADA’ AND ITS SECRET ALLIANCE WITH CHINA

On 15 August, the Spectator Australia carried an article saying that, in March, the 2 countries signed a 25-year, £300 billion trade and military partnership which included Chinese investment in exchange for regular, heavily discounted oil and a strengthened cooperation between the military, security and defence departments.  It also says that a fleet of vessels has been assembled with the sole objective of breaching international sanctions barring foreign investments and exports of Iranian petroleum products.  They have been ferrying black-market oil to willing buyers, predominantly China.  It also reveals some of the playbook of evasive tactics in use.

https://www.spectator.com.au/2021/08/irans-ghost-armada-and-its-secret-alliance-with-china/

UK TO INTRODUCE WORLD-LEADING BAN ON SHARK FIN TRADE

On 15 August, DEFRA reported that the UK will ban the import and export of detached shark fins and products containing them.  The UK undertook a public consultation, which ended on 4 January, and a summary of responses has just been published.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-introduce-world-leading-ban-on-shark-fin-trade

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/shark-fin-trade-call-for-evidence/outcome/summary-of-responses-call-for-evidence-on-the-scale-and-impacts-of-the-import-and-export-of-shark-fins

FRANCE: CIGARETTE MANUFACTURERS MUST FINANCE CIG BUTT CLEAN-UP

On 12 August, TJI reported that the tobacco industry will have to pay €80 million per year for the clean-up of butts and for awareness campaigns.

https://www.tobaccojournal.com/Cigarette_manufacturers_must_finance_cig_butt_clean-up.56549.0.html

CYBER CAPABILITIES AND NATIONAL POWER: A NET ASSESSMENT OF 15 COUNTRIES

On 28 June, the International Institute of Strategic Studies published a research paper which provides a major new qualitative assessment of 15 countries’ cyber power, as well as a new qualitative framework for understanding how to rank global state cyber capacity. The report is intended to assist national decision-making, for example by indicating the cyber capabilities that make the greatest difference to national power.  Such information can help governments and major corporations when calculating strategic risk and deciding on strategic investment.  Its 15 studies represent a snapshot in time: the national circumstances of each state will of course evolve, and cyber strategies and investments will face challenges from many sources, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, for each state, most policies and trends in capability are likely to endure.

https://www.iiss.org/blogs/research-paper/2021/06/cyber-capabilities-national-power 

IRELAND: CENTRAL REGISTER OF BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP OF COMPANIES AND INDUSTRIAL AND PROVIDENT SOCIETIES (RBO) ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2020

On 12 August, Irish law firm LK Shields said that the report provides insight into the activity of the RBO during 2020 and the rate of compliance by relevant entities in Ireland under the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019.  It says that nearly 189,000 (81%) of companies and 616 societies (64%) had filed beneficial ownership information with the register by the end of 2020, and that the Registrar rejected 21% of submissions.

https://www.lkshields.ie/news-insights/news/rbo-annual-report-2020-register-of-beneficial-ownership

SAUDI PUBLIC PROSECUTION SEIZES $37 MILLION FROM MONEY LAUNDERING CONVICTS

On 15 August, Asharq al Aswat reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced that it had confiscated more than $37.3 million from 4 individuals accused in a money laundering case. A Saudi citizen was found to have given 3 expatriates access to his commercial bank accounts to transfer funds abroad for a monthly fee.

https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3132986/saudi-public-prosecution-seizes-37mn-money-laundering-convicts

COMMERCIAL “INFLUENCE-FOR-HIRE” DISINFORMATION SERVICES IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION FUELLED BY CHEAP DIGITAL LABOUR

On 13 August, a post on the Coda newsletter referred to a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think-tank.  It analysed online behaviour in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia and found evidence of financially driven content farms, coordinated websites and social media accounts producing unoriginal, low-quality articles and videos to drive traffic and revenue.  Examples included actions benefiting a Korean company that had been buying local land in Indonesia for palm oil production, and others favouring China’s government and policies. 

https://www.codastory.com/disinformation/disinformation-hire/

The report is at –

https://www.aspi.org.au/report/influence-hire

MALTA: €500,000 FINE FOR MONEY TRANSFER FIRM SENDVALU

On 15 August, Malta Today reported that the FIAU says the Maltese subsidiary of Swiss money transfer brand Sendvalu failed to undertake appropriate enhanced due diligence measures in instances clearly posing a high money laundering risk.  The FIAU found seven breaches of the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act.

https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/111480/500000_fiau_fine_for_money_transfer_firm_sendvalu

YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS JUST ABOUT AFGHANISTAN? THINK AGAIN

An Opinion piece from Bloomberg on 13 August said that, as the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, other jihadist groups are already carrying out attacks in the region; with Chinese interests the first in line.  It says that Jihadist groups based in the country, some with transnational agendas like al-Qaeda, now have a template for defeating governments backed by major powers and have been emboldened by the Taliban’s lightning-fast advance.  It says to expect the immediate danger to be regional, in South and Central Asia, with attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan highlighted (although China is a close ally of the country in its rivalry with India).  As for Afghanistan, the article says that the next worry would be that foreign fighters again start pouring in from around the world – and insurgents from other nations are there now, but mostly come from neighbouring countries. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-08-14/the-taliban-is-already-inspiring-terror-beyond-afghanistan-it-will-only-spread

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OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – AUGUST 13/14

Not quite back to normal myself, but I can report that (aside from clearly low hotel occupancy) much of business and day to day life appears normal (or close to it) in Panama’s central provinces. This “normal” included the Inter-American Highway (which stretched from Alaska to Tierra del Fuega, except for the Darien Gap in Panama) being closed for a time for an impromptu demonstration over the call for a footbridge (not, it seemed, actually where the demonstrators were taking action…)

Panama Covid-19 update – Meanwhile, the last 2 days have seen 758 and 852 new cases reported, together with a total of 13 new fatalities. On Saturday, 14 August there were reported to be 10,654 active cases – continuing the gradual fall in numbers, with 117 in ICU and 352 in other wards.

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14 AUGUST 2021

NICARAGUAN POLICE RAID LA PRENSA NEWSPAPER, CHARGE DIRECTORS WITH FRAUD

On 13 August, Yahoo News reported that Nicaraguan police had raided the office of La Prensa, the only national newspaper, after President Ortega’s government opened customs fraud and money laundering investigations against the publication.  The police raid follows a months-long crackdown by Ortega’s government against its political rivals, including multiple presidential candidates, ahead of elections due in November.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/nicaraguan-police-raid-la-prensa-224830185.html

US CUSTOMS HAS SEIZED THOUSANDS OF FAKE COVID VACCINATION CARDS FROM CHINA

On 13 August, The Independent reported that US Customs and seized over 3,000 cards made to look like CDC Covid vaccination certificates from China at its Memphis office.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/counterfeit-cdc-vaccine-cards-china-b1902486.html

UK: MODERN SLAVERY OFFENCES SENTENCING GUIDELINES PUBLISHED

The Sentencing Council in the UK on 12 August published new sentencing guidelines for sentencing offenders convicted of modern slavery offences in England and Wales. They give judges and magistrates dedicated guidelines to follow when sentencing offenders guilty of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, including slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and trafficking for the purposes of exploitation.  

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/news/item/modern-slavery-offences-sentencing-guidelines-published/

UK: COURT OF APPEAL CONFIRMS SCOPE OF ‘DOCTRINE OF MERGER’, WHICH IS DESIGNED TO PREVENT AN ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS THROUGH MULTIPLE CLAIMS IN RESPECT OF THE SAME CAUSE OF ACTION

An article on 12 August from Out-Law said that the Court in England has confirmed the scope of the doctrine which is designed to prevent an abuse of court process by preventing parties from bringing multiple claims in respect of the same cause of action

https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/news/uk-appeal-court-clarifies-doctrine-of-merger

MALTA: IN THE LAND WHERE CASH IS KING, NEW RESTRICTIONS WILL BITE HARD

On 13 August, an article from Malta Today says that new rules apply to private individuals as well as companies, which means that using the internet will not exempt you from the cash restriction.  Ignoring the law would incur a penalty on both the seller and buyer equivalent to 40% of the amount paid in cash in excess of €9,999.99; and requesting 2 payments of less than €10,000 will be considered as linked payments and subject to sanction. The regulations do not apply if payment for the listed goods is made by cheque, bank transfer or card.  However, a 2018 survey carried out by the Central Bank of Malta showed that Maltese households were more inclined to use cash and paper-based payment instruments as the primary payment channel.

https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/111382/in_the_land_where_cash_is_king_new_restrictions_will_bite_hard#.YRhcGHySmM-

FINANCIAL REPORTING COUNCIL ANNUAL ENFORCEMENT REVIEW 2021: THE MAIN POINTS

On 11 August, a briefing from Clyde & Co said that on 29 July the FRC in the UK released its 2021 Annual Enforcement Review summarising its enforcement work over the past year.  The FRC regulates auditors, accountants and actuaries. In this briefing the firm summarises the report and provides comments on the Review.  It says that, as with last year, the failure of auditors to exercise professional scepticism (ISA 200) remains one of the key “live issues” in the regulation of the profession, as well as focusing on issues in connection with auditors’ preparation of audit documentation.  The briefing also highlighted fraudulent use of company funds, misleading financial reporting, goodwill in companies’ assets and misleading the auditors.  However, it is said that the stand out theme in the Review is not enforcement but the successful championing of the Constructive Engagement process as an alternative to full enforcement action – which the firm says should be seen as positive. 

https://www.clydeco.com/en/insights/2021/08/frc-annual-enforcement-review-2021-the-main-points

SEC EMERGENCY ACTION AND TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, AND THE APPOINTMENT OF A RECEIVER, TO STOP AN ALLEGED PONZI SCHEME AND MISAPPROPRIATION OF INVESTOR PROCEEDS PERPETRATED BY A FLORIDA RESIDENT AND 2 ENTITIES SHE CONTROLS

A release on Mondo Visione on 13 August reported that the had taken the action to stop an alleged Ponzi scheme and misappropriation of investor proceeds perpetrated by Coral Springs, Florida resident Johanna M. Garcia and 2 entities she controls.

https://mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/sec-obtains-emergency-relief-charges-two-florida-companies-and-their-principal/

SEC HAS ANNOUNCED EMERGENCY ACTION AND A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND ASSET FREEZE AGAINST A NEW YORK INVESTOR AND 2 ENTITIES HE CONTROLS

On 13 August, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the SEC had announced the filing of an emergency action against Martin A Ruiz and 2 entities he controls, Carter Bain Wealth Management LLC and RAM Fund LP. Shortly after filing the complaint, the SEC obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Ruiz, Carter Bain, and RAM to stop an allegedly ongoing fraudulent securities offering through which Ruiz and his entities allegedly misappropriated millions of dollars from investors.

https://mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/sec-obtains-court-order-to-stop-investment-advisers-alleged-ongoing-offering-fr/

CANADA: TRUDEAU’S MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR NUCLEAR DEAL CALLED OUT BY NON-PROLIFERATION EXPERTS

An article in the Financial Post on 12 August was concerned with the announcement in May from the Swiss-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government over a deal he has approved and funded that critics say will undermine the goal of nuclear non-proliferation.  It is said that prominent scientists are concerned about Canada approving a project, and subsidising it to the tune of $50.5 million, that’s being developed by a start-up called Moltex Energy to develop its new reactor technology and have it operating by the early 2030s.

https://financialpost.com/diane-francis/diane-francis-trudeaus-multi-million-dollar-nuclear-deal-called-out-by-non-proliferation-experts

NSO CYPRUS-BASED RIVAL QUADREAM IN TALKS WITH MOROCCO

On 10 August, Globes in Israel reported that Israeli company Quadream’s mobile phone hacking products do not require an Israeli Defense Ministry export licence because its parent company is based in Cyprus – citing this as an example of thebiggest winners from the international investigation of Israeli cyberattack company NSO having been its rivals.

https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-nso-rival-quadream-in-talks-with-moroccan-govt-1001381146

4 JAILED FOR 24 YEARS OVER MONEY LAUNDERING AND SMUGGLING IN SAUDI ARABIA

On 14 August, Arab News reported that an investigation into money laundering and smuggling has led to 4 people being sentenced to a total of 24 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of $37.3 million, a Public Prosecution source has said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1911236/saudi-arabia

INDIA-NORWAY JOINT VENTURE FIRM’S ASSETS SEIZED OVER MONEY LAUNDERING CASE

On 16 August, NDTV reported that the Enforcement Directorate had said it has attached assets of an India-Norway joint venture company in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged Gujarat Maritime Board scam.  Properties attached include a plant, machinery, computers, land and building.  It is alleged to have “submitted exaggerated cost of the project to the GMB and thereby misled the GMB into fixing higher tariff rates for the navigation of vessels”.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-norway-joint-venture-firms-assets-seized-over-money-laundering-case-2510473

GAMBLING ADVERTISING IN THE UK: HOW IS IT REGULATED? 

On 13 August, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper saying that gambling advertising has increased substantially since the 2005 Act came into force. This has led to concerns about its impact on children, young people, and vulnerable adults. The relationship between gambling and sport has come under particular scrutiny.  A Government review, published in December 2020, sought views on, among other things, the impacts of gambling advertising.  A call for evidence closed on 31 March, and DCMS aims to publish a White Paper setting out its next steps by the end of the year.

https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7428/CBP-7428.pdf

HOW THE UK “SUGAR TAX” REDUCED THE POPULATION’S CALORIE INTAKE

A post from the LSE on 13 August reminded one that in March 2016, the UK Government announced a national Soft Drinks Industry Levy which was enacted in April 2018.  Analysing data on soft drink sales in UK grocery and convenience stores, researchers say that they have found that product reformulation was the key driver behind large levy-induced calorie reductions.

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/soft-drinks-levy/

NEW EUROPOL THREAT ASSESSMENT ON IS AND AL-QAEDA’S BATTLE FOR RELEVANCE

On 13 August, Europol announced its 3rd annual report on Online Jihadist Propaganda.  Focusing on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as well as their offshoots, the report addresses the trajectories of these groups, and how they have responded to shifting dynamics and attempted to overcome setbacks.  The report shows that the year 2020 was a critical moment in the evolution of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, during which both groups faced major blows, and had to adapt to shifting realities to survive and stay relevant. The risk of online jihadist propaganda being translated into offline violence remains high, as propaganda from both groups continues to call for lone actor attacks by individuals who have no physical connections to either group.  The news release highlights the key findings, including that IS displays increasing insurgent activity in its traditional heartlands and continuous global reach, focused on attempting a resurgence in Iraq and expanding its international presence by further empowering its global network of affiliates. 

https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/2020-in-review-new-europol-threat-assessment-and-al-qaeda’s-battle-for-relevance

BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION AT SPORTING EVENTS SUCH AS THE OLYMPICS, WORLD CUPS AND UEFA CLUB COMPETITION FINALS CAN AND MUST BE PREVENTED

On 12 August, the Phys Org website reported that a new paper from the University of Portsmouth makes this argument, saying that with the help and advice of key people involved, the risks can be mitigated.  The paper is said to have explored the perspectives of anti-corruption specialists, sport governance officials, athletes, coaches, club officials and journalists—all stakeholders in ‘sport mega-events’.

https://phys.org/news/2021-08-reforms-bribery-corruption-major-sporting.html

FORMER SENIOR BANKER FROM THE INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL BANK OF CHINA (ICBC) JAILED FOR LIFE FOR BRIBERY

On 13 August, Finews Asia reported that a Shanghai court sentenced Gu Guoming to life imprisonment in yet another high-profile conviction against financial executives.  The former head of ICBC’s Shanghai branch, Gu is said to have taken about $21 million of bribes in exchange for favours as well as assistance to obtain bank credit and investments 2005-2019.

https://www.finews.asia/finance/35145-ex-icbc-banker-sentenced-to-life-imprisonment-over-bribery

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PAKISTAN AND CAMBODIA AML/CFT ASSESSMENT FOLLOW-UP REPORTS

On 12 August, FATF-style regional body APG published 2 follow-up reports –

The mutual evaluation report (MER) of Cambodia was adopted in July 2017 and this report analyses Cambodia’s progress in addressing the technical compliance (TC) deficiencies identified in its MER – as is usual with such updates this report does not analyse any progress Cambodia has made to improve its effectiveness. Technical compliance re-ratings are given where sufficient progress has been demonstrated. This report also analyses progress made in implementing new requirements relating to FATF Recommendation 15 which has changed since the MER was adopted.  Cambodia had requested re-ratings of the FATF Recommendations 1, 12, 33, 37, 38 and 40 (which were rated PC) and 7 (which was rated NC).   The APG welcomes the steps that Cambodia has taken to improve its technical compliance with Recommendations 1, 7, 12, 33, 37, 38 and 40 and, as a result of this progress, Cambodia has been re-rated on Recommendations 1, 7, 12, 33, 37 and 38.  However, insufficient progress has been made to justify a re-rating of Recommendation 40.  Cambodia now has 27 Recommendations rated C/LC and will remain in enhanced follow-up, and will continue to report back to the APG on progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures.  Its next progress report is due 1 February.

http://www.apgml.org/includes/handlers/get-document.ashx?d=0bbf5392-f3f0-476e-8cfd-639383ff37c2

The mutual evaluation report (MER) of Pakistan was published in October 2019, and this report analyses the progress of Pakistan in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in Pakistan’s MER. Technical compliance re-ratings are given where sufficient progress has been demonstrated.  As with the report on Cambodia, and all such follow-up reports, this report does not analyse any progress Pakistan has made to improve its effectiveness.  Pakistan has made good progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its MER and has been re-rated on FATF Recommendations10, 18, 26 and 34. Recommendation 10 has been re-rated to Compliant, and Recommendations 18, 26 and 34 to Largely Compliant.  Overall, in light of the progress made by Pakistan since its MER was adopted, its technical compliance with the FATF Recommendations as of February 2021 is detailed in the following schedule.  Pakistan thus has 35 Recommendations rated C/LC and will remain on enhanced follow-up, and will continue to report back to the APG on progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures. Pakistan’s next progress report is due 1 February.

http://www.apgml.org/includes/handlers/get-document.ashx?d=64b2d2b7-bb60-4230-880f-c4aae6f47f27

Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed!  I have a page where you can do so, and where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y

PODCAST: DISRUPTING THE RANSOMWARE ECOSYSTEM

The latest RUSI Financial Crime Insight podcast involves Tom Keatinge being joined by Jen Ellis of Rapid7, Elliptic’s Simone Maini, the University of Oxford’s Ciaran Martin, Graeme Newman from CFC Underwriting, and journalist and author Misha Glenny (of “McMafia” fame) to discuss current efforts to combat this threat, and the most reasonable policy interventions available to governments and the private sector.

https://rusi.org/podcasts/financial-crime-insights/episode-20-disrupting-ransomware-ecosystem

Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed!  I have a page where you can do so, and where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y

ITAR AND UK LICENSING EXEMPTIONS

On 4 August, an article from Braumiller Law Group is concerned with a caution about licence exemptions for Australia and the UK contained in the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  It explains that an ITAR licence exemption means that the exporter does not need a license or agreement to export or temporarily import defence articles or defence services – but warns that anyone anticipating using such an exemption must meet all the requirements for the exemption.  Exporters that cannot meet all these requirements cannot use the exemption.

https://www.braumillerlaw.com/the-itar-australia-and-uk-exemptions-better-read-the-regulations-carefully/

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THE FIENDISH NEW TRICK CYBER-CRIMINALS ARE USING TO EVADE CAPTURE

On 12 August, the BBC reported that a new service has launched on the Darknet offering criminals a way to check how “clean” their digital coins are – called Antinalysis, criminals are now able to check their own Bitcoin wallets and see whether any association with criminal activity could be flagged by authorities.  An expert is quoted as saying that it is a concerning new trend that could make their work and that of law enforcement harder. But luckily researchers who tested it say the service isn’t working very well at the moment.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-58176113

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2021/08/new-anti-anti-money-laundering-services-for-crooks/

HAMAS HAS A SECRET OVERSEAS INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO WORTH MORE THAN $500 MILLION

On 11 August, The National in UAE reported that investments include interests in about 40 international companies in the Middle East and North Africa, Die Welt reported.  The newspaper said it saw documents from 2017-18 that were part of a decade’s worth of financial files discovered on a Hamas computer.

https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/2021/08/11/hamas-secret-foreign-investment-portfolio-reportedly-worth-500m/